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There is always so much to worry about in graduate school: from academic performance, finances, staying healthy and in a nutshell, trying to achieve a balanced lifestyle. Mindfulness is essentially the act of giving something your full awareness and undivided attention so that your senses are completely engaged by the task at hand. An important aspect of mindfulness is that it is an action devoid of judgment: you cannot judge your thoughts or judge yourself for having thoughts. Remember that it takes a while to be able to master the art of mindfulness and you want to give yourself some time to test it out and see whether it really works out for you or not. The second concept introduced during the workshop was that emotions are our bodies’ way of delivering information about our environment.
We can mindfully decide to ride the wave of an emotion and allow ourselves to feel it with all its glory. Sometimes, we may feel emotions that are extremely intense and intolerable, such as when grieving for something or someone. Keeping a journal or diary greatly helps in dissecting our emotions and understanding ourselves, which is very helpful given the complex nature of our emotional being. Finally, sit down with yourself and take a moment to consider what your values in life might be.What do you seek in life, desire from your career, work relationships…etc? This totally brilliant little pocket-sized anti-stress colouring book is just the perfect size to pop into your handbag and dip into throughout the day. Gorgeously illustrated, The Mindfulness Colouring Book for adults is filled with pages of intricate and sophisticated patterns, and delightful and familiar scenes. This is one that comes with me everywhere and even five minutes in the car while I’m waiting for one thing or another is enough to assure a much calmer car journey. A serious dose of tough self-love goes a long way with me… And, as soon as I was able to shift into acceptance, my aversion started to melt away. Knowing I only had so much time left to enjoy the house, I found myself feeling much more grateful for it. This new way of looking at the situation alleviated the sense of loss—replacing it with hope and possibility. Kate and I discussed the option… The thought of downsizing appealed to us—dedicating ourselves to more conscious minimalism as a family. Moving ahead, we slowed down the pace of our search, only visited homes that fit our vision of what we wanted—and within less than a week—we found another (slightly larger) tiny house—with an even bigger separate workspace, in an even more convenient location. This indulgent daydreaming phase now dominating, my initial fantasies had the flavor of excitement.
Every hour of every day for the world’s longest week, I battled with accepting the unknown.
Then, finally, a week and one day after we submitted our application, Kate’s cell rang.
I grew up an only child with emotionally distant parents, in a relatively remote area of New Hampshire. I can no longer muscle through my days, pretending I’m some sort of robot who can function autonomously without a broader network of connection and support. There seems to be a rising number of secular mindfulness practitioners—but a clear lack of facilitated physical spaces for us to commune with one another outside of classes, sits, and workshops.
You need community; you need a brother or sister, or friend to remind you what you already know. Mindfulness is within you, but it needs to be watered in order to manifest and become a reality. A mindful community is a community of resistance, resisting the speed, violence, and unskillful ways of living that are prevalent in our society. I went to a baby shower this past weekend and, literally, salivated at the sea of homemade pupusas waving around in front of me. I wanted to shove ten of these puppies into my mouth and then make a beeline for the layer cake. All this got me thinking… Kate and I made the commitment to eat healthier for ourselves.
Beyond the benefits of sticking to our personal resolutions to eat healthier for ourselves—and based on the feedback from those around us at the shower—I started wondering if we also had a social responsibility to follow-through with our personal resolutions.
And, as they looked across this data set, as well as others they conducted—they found that 80% of our behavior is basically imitation of our peers, of the people who are around us. You don’t have to go to the extreme of joining a commune—although plenty of people are doing that. 1) Stop hanging out with the people who are displaying the behaviors we don’t want, and seek out friendships with those who are displaying the behaviors we do want to adopt. 2) Once we have the strength to stand tall in our new behaviors, we must personally resolve to stay committed to our intention to continue these new behaviors. So, I say, YES, we have a social responsibility to follow through with our personal resolutions!
During my month at CML, I woke up at 4:10am almost every day, ate only two meals per day (the last of which ended around 2pm), logged approximately 150 hours of meditation, and upped my meditation practice to a whole new level. Invigorated and inspired by my time at CML, I’m also excited to kick-up my efforts to help facilitate more mindfulness in our communities. Letting go of the toxic elements of my life was far from easy—in fact, there were moments where the process felt more painful than keeping them around… But, just like removing a splinter often hurts more than living with it—I knew the temporary pain I was feeling would eventually lead to healing. As my mindfulness practice continues to expand, I find myself becoming more and more aware of what feels healthy and unhealthy.

That little voice in my head comments, draws conclusion, compares, and tries to figure out pretty much everything. But I’ve come to see how commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, and trying to figure things out are all just mental habits—processes that my mind puts into action (largely without my consciously thinking about them). Well, interrupting a mental habit (like needlessly commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, and trying to figure things out) is exactly the same process! 00000On life’s journey Faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. I certainly resonate with the first three words of this Buddhist quote, because life IS a journey.
Perhaps growing up you were constantly moving and once you reached an age where you could determine for yourself what you wanted, you decided it was time to become rooted.
Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. There is no better moment than now while reading these words to consider what you are thankful for. Nevertheless, here is an opportunity to do a practice inspired by this poem that can help us cultivate a sense of gratitude and lovingkindness during this time. Think of a person or animal who represents light, who represents a loving and kind presence in your life. Now imagine that person saying to you, “May you be safe and protected from inner and outer harm,” “May you be happy,” “May you be free from fear,” “May you be healthy in body and mind.” You can also create your own wishes and aspirations here.
Now imagine your family and friends with you (those who you feel difficulty with and those who you feel more ease with) and with intention, saying those same words. Take a moment to actually do this practice if you only read the words…then just feel into how you are doing and whatever is there, just letting it be. I deeply thank all of you who have been following the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog posts and for interacting below as your posts truly create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. Last updated: 25 Nov 2014Views expressed are those solely of the writer and have not been reviewed.
Deb: I have benefitted from the guidance you provide in this forum as well as your several publications.
The task may be anything from focusing on your breath, cooking, working in a lab, writing, and even walking.
It is meant to tell you that your safety is being threatened and accordingly prompt an action. We can schedule time to journal our emotions, cry, steam off or engage in other forms of healthy expression (such as vigorous exercise). In that case, distractions can be quite useful and help shift our attention to our breath or other things in the room so that we may return to our emotion later on when we feel less prompted to vigorously produce a reaction. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University.
Crafted specifically to soothe anxious minds and reduce stress, this book offers a practical exercise in mindfulness that draws on your creativity and hones your focus. Every page has characterful charm apparent from Emma Farraron’s unique drawing style that entices you to meditate on your artwork while you mindfully and creatively fill these pages with colour.
Emma’s illustrative style appeals to my own sense of imagination and reminds me of moments of childhood where fantasy was as real as life. And, watching all of this happening was the most frustrating part… Intellectually, I knew I was causing all the angst by not accepting the situation. But then our landlady changed her mind and decided she didn’t want to rent the tiny house longterm, after all. I see the importance of this communal component to my mindfulness practice. But, is there a space for sangha—for community—outside the Buddhist context, within the secular mindfulness movement? Online mindfulness spaces abound, and I’ve found a sense of community within these spaces to a degree. We cannot go to the ocean as a drop of water—we would evaporate before reaching our destination. When we can look at ourselves and at others as beautiful, unique flowers and trees we can truly grow to understand and love one another. When we can appreciate each member’s contribution and see our weaknesses as potential for growth, we can learn to live together harmoniously. So, this is a shout out to all you dedicated mindfulness practitioners out there—I think it’s time for us to find one another and make time for BEing together. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. I had to physically block my mouth with my hand to keep myself from eating one of these things. One way to help ourselves do this is by undertaking a dedicated deep, internal, practice—such as meditation and mindfulness. Because science is now proving that our personal resolutions aren’t just about us, personally, anymore. You’ll also hear about the pioneering work that CML founder and guiding teacher, Soryu Forrall is doing to merge mindfulness with responsibility in our society.
Sound appealing?… If so, keep an eye out for announcements about how to get involved with mindful community-building activities and opportunities (both virtually—and locally in the Los Angeles area).

And, although this realization felt painfully scary at the time, I knew that, if I ever wanted to feel any true sense of contentment and wellbeing—it needed to be done.
And, letting go of the pieces of my life that weren’t serving me would, eventually, make space for the things that would help me flourish. There will always be weeds that pop up and need to be pulled in order to allow enough space for the plants in our garden to grow. Once we’ve noticed the thought, we can then, consciously, disengage from the thought and redirect our attention back to our meditation anchor point.
But, as I practice becoming more aware of my mental habits, I can see how it’s becoming easier to break free from them whenever they do appear. In each case, the mental activity involved is the act of paying attention; and, at all times, the instruction is to pay attention with an attitude of curiosity and compassion, even when (or, especially when) negative judgments naturally arise within the mind. If a man lives a pure life nothing can destroy him, If he has conquered greed nothing can limit his freedom. It becomes easier to open up and reveal our own gifts to this world when we feel positive loving encouragement within.
This can be a good friend who is alive, maybe someone who has passed away, a pet, or maybe a spiritual figure such as the Dalai Lama, Jesus, or even the hand of God.
May this be a springboard for you to cultivate this sense of gratitude and lovingkindness, which even though it may come with some uncomfortable feelings at times, can be a source of much psychological healing and feelings of well-being. Mindfulness is the act of being in the present moment and re-directing your attention away from the stream of distracting thoughts and back to the current action. Adopting a non-judgmental attitude towards our emotions helps us understand that emotions are sources of information which our body expresses cognitively and physiologically. Anger, on the other hand, might indicate that you find yourself in a situation where you are experiencing injustice. Perhaps you feel angry that someone did not respond to your phone call because you are truly afraid of being friendless and alone.
ACT allows us to simply accept our emotional state, thereby decreasing its time-course and saving ourselves the trouble of bottling up negative emotions, as well as allowing ourselves to fully experience and relish in positive emotional states. Afterwards, it is favorable to mindfully engage in a pleasurable activity such as taking a bath or reading a great book to recharge our energy.
The MCS offers many workshops and resources for obtaining emotional record forms that you can fill out. If one of your values is to always achieve peace and harmony in the workplace, then it might help you to not get too worked up when your colleague eats your lunch by accident! The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill. I also knew the only way to put a halt to this maniacal mindset meant rigorously redirecting my focus. I mention this, not to play victim to my neurological differences from the norm—but to bring to light that my using it as an excuse to not partake in community needs to change. Our practice is to see that we are a flower or a tree, and we are the whole garden as well, all interconnected. And, although the process might not always be fun, it’s essential if we ever want to flourish. While for some the holidays are a time of connection and being with family and friends, for others it’s a source of stress only reinforcing a sense of loneliness and difficulty.
I ended up enrolling in a 4-week workshop offered by McGill’s Counseling Services (MCS) on cultivating emotional awareness (currently being offered as “Skills for Emotional Regulation” starting November 2nd.) Throughout the workshop, Philip Lemieux, a psychologist at the MCS, emphasized that the most important message to take home from this workshop is “the planting of the mindfulness practice seed”.
Usually, mindfulness is taught and cultivated through meditation by focusing on the movement of breath at the nostril and its flow through the belly and chest. You can shine the light on the chatter in your brain but when you apply mindfulness, you turn off the light on the chatter and instead focus it on the breath.
Take a moment to observe what emotions you are feeling in a given situation and ask yourself: what is making you feel this way? Emotions are complex so it is wise to take a step back for evaluation – being mindful of emotion is key.
Just by participating with other practitioners in life’s daily activities, we can experience a tangible feeling of love and acceptance. And what they found was that people were more likely to stop smoking if the people around them stopped smoking. Eventually, your mind will drift because it is simply natural and inevitable, so if you find yourself caught up in thoughts again, don’t panic!
Change, after all, takes time: it is not a switch but a process, so be very kind and patient with yourself.
Recognizing the fundamental unit is not the individual, but the social group—the best way to act out your intentions, is to change who you associate with […]. The media is over-saturated with folks who are constantly role-modeling these types of behaviors. Distancing ourselves from our emotions helps us harness the information presented to us and then allows us to make better-informed decisions on how to respond. Continuing to do this builds a positive feedback loop that becomes easier for the brain to access over time, thus changing its default state of action to a more positive approach.

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